JD NXTGEN: Craig Richards settles Andre Sterling rivalry in London
By Matt Horan
Last Updated: 21/06/19 11:48pm
Craig Richards set up a shot for the British light-heavyweight title after a gruelling victory over rival Andre Sterling.
The two south Londoners had traded verbal blows in the build-up to their York Hall clash, but it was 'Spider' Richards who settled an absorbing back-and-forth grudge match, dropping his man midway before taking a unanimous decision verdict.
The current British champion Joshua Buatsi was a keen spectator ringside and could be next in line for Richards, now 15-1.
It was Sterling who made the better start, managing to get up close in the opening rounds to outwork his Crystal Palace foe, both fighters with plenty of support inside the London venue.
Two heavy right hooks then crashed home for the unbeaten man in the third as momentum built, but it perhaps only served to wake 'Spider' up, Richards finishing strong, a long right of his own landing flush.
The action intensified in the next few, both men trading clean shots, Richards trying to control things from distance behind the jab as the Lambeth man continued to maraud forward.
In the sixth, the tide suddenly turned emphatically in the Crystal Palace man's favour, a series of heavy rights dropping his man. Clearly fatigued, Sterling returned to his feet but had to eat more punishing blows before the bell came to his rescue.
To his credit, he came back firing as he looked to secure local bragging rights, a crunching hook landing in the seventh as more followed in the period after, the left-right salvos causing damage to Richards on the inside.
With a red-hot atmosphere engulfing York Hall, the pace then began to slow, 'Spider' finally able to get some control behind the jab, importantly depositing rounds in the bank.
Sterling had never previously fought past ten rounds and he had to endure another nightmare period in the 11th, feeling the effects of a clapping short right before several heavy left blows wheeled in as he flagged against the ropes.
With a spring in his step, Richards dominated the final three minutes before scores of 117-111, 116-111 and 115-112 saw his hand raised.